With increased work and
practice, Katie King was able to show herself more clearly. People were
allowed to feel her face and found it to be hollow at the back. Later, it
filled out, with the ectoplasmic drapery becoming less abundant. In a
year's time, Katie King was able to walk from out of the cabinet.
Not long after this, she allowed herself to be photographed with flash
photography. Above a photograph taken by Sir William Crookes of the
materialized Katie King.
As often happens with
materialization mediumship, in the early stages of the mediumship, Katie
King's face resembled that of the medium. She said that she could not
help this. In order to prove that she was, in fact, separate from the
medium, Katie often produced a face of chocolate brown or black. As
further proof, the medium was often tied up in the cabinet by the sitters
and, sometimes, by the spirits themselves. Moreover, Katie King was
quite different in stature, manner, and personality.
Ultimately, it was the famous
scientist, Sir William Crookes (above) who would furnish decisive proof
that Katie King was, indeed, a separate entity from Florence Cook.
After lengthy and exhaustive research in his laboratory, Sir William
Crookes found the mediumship to be quite genuine, and he published his
findings in 1874. His book, Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism,
aroused a storm of ridicule, sarcasm, and protest. His reputation as an
astute scientist and researcher was questioned by many people, both from
within and from without the scientific community. As for myself, I find the
book fascinating and very informative.
On March 12, 1874, Katie
King, after materializing, came to the opening of the cabinet, pushed
aside the curtain, and summoned Sir William to the assistance of the
medium. Katie was in white. Sir William immediately went into the
cabinet and found Florence Cook, clad in her customary black velvet dress,
lying across the sofa. Katie had vanished.
Later, in May, Sir William
actually saw the two forms together during a photographic experiment. In
order to protect herself from the injuries of the flash light, Florence
Cook, lying on the floor, muffled her face with a shawl. The account of Sir
"I frequently drew the
curtain on one side when Katie was standing near and it was a common
thing for the seven or eight of us in the laboratory to see Miss Cook and Katie
at the same time under the full blaze of the electric light. We did not on
these occasions actually see the face of the medium, because of the shawl, but
we saw her hands and feet; we saw her move uneasily under the influence of
the intense light and we heard her moan occasionally. I have one photograph
of the two together, but Katie is seated in front of Miss Cook's
It was not uncommon, during those
days, to set up test devices, in order to assure that the medium was not
contributing, in any fraudulent manner, to the materialization. One such
device used by Sir William was an electrical set-up. The medium was placed
within an electric circuit connected with a resistance coil and a
galvanometer. The movements of the galvanometer were shown in the outer
room to the sitters on a large graduated scale. Had the medium removed the
wires, the meter would have shown violent fluctuations. Nothing suspicious
ever occurred, during those sittings, yet Katie King appeared, waved
her arms, shook hands with her friends, and wrote in their presence.
Another test was conducted by
having the materialized Katie King plunge her hands into a chemical
solution which -- had the wires been on her -- would have caused an
increase in electrical current, thus registering on the galvanometer.
Absolutely no fluctuation on the meter was noticed, clearly indicating that
the hand which had been placed in the chemical solution was not that of
On May 21, 1874, Sir William
Crookes witnessed the farewell meeting between Florence Cook and Katie
King. Katie woke the medium from her trance. According to his records,
this farewell meeting was very moving and emotional. Both medium and
materialized spirit talked to each other with great affection, and Florence
shed many tears. She never saw Katie King again.
Shortly thereafter, another
Spirit control came forward. She called herself Marie and,
apparently, did much singing and dancing.
There is one incident which
bears mention concerning Florence Cook and her new control, Marie.
On January 9, 1880, during a materialization sitting, one of the sitters,
Sir George Sitwell, reached into the cabinet and grabbed Marie. She
did not dissolve. She was found to be the medium wearing only her corsets
and flannel petticoat. The captured pieces of garment were brought out of
the cabinet by another sitter. This time, the medium did not fall ill. It
is said that the medium was enveloped in white drapery when Sir George
One explanation of this
incident which had been given was that it was an optical illusion created
by the darkness. Personally, I do not feel this explanation bears any
weight. Did Florence Cook cheat at this sitting? She, alone, knows for
sure. To me, the evidence indicates that she did. But, as with the famed
Boston medium, Margery Crandon, we must not
assess a medium's whole career based upon one isolated sitting. To be sure,
cheating is cheating, and that cannot be excused. But, to dismiss all the
genuine phenomena because of one incident would be unwise, even though it
will cast a shadow of doubt on the whole.
Regardless of what happened on
that evening, the result was that Florence Cook decided not to sit for
materialization, unless someone was in the cabinet with her. Florence
Marryat, author of "There is No Death," was to be that
person. To assure integrity, Miss Marryat tied herself to the medium and
remained fastened to her throughout the proceedings. During such
gatherings, Marie appeared, sang, and danced, all with great
As so often happens with
physical mediums, owing to the many trials she had undergone, Florence Cook
who, since 1874, was known by marriage as Mrs. Elgie
Corner, gave up public mediumship for quite some time. Then, in 1899, at
the invitation of the Sphinx Society, she agreed to sit, under test
conditions, in Berlin. It was Florence Cook's chance to clear her somewhat
tainted reputation and to set the record straight, so to speak. And that
she did! Marie materialized and produced some of the most astounding
phenomena ever witnessed through her mediumship.
Thus, we have the mediumship
of Florence Cook. The question whether she occasionally cheated is, indeed,
a delicate one. The Sitwell exposure is really the only incident which
would indicate fraud on her part. Psychic researcher and author, Camille
Flammarion, writes in satiric style that the famous physical medium, D. D.
"Gave it to me as his
personal opinion that Miss Cook was only a skillful trickster and has
shamelessly deceived the eminent scientist, and as for mediums, there was
only one absolutely trustworthy and that was himself, Daniel Dunglas
Sir William Crookes, in his
extensive research with this amazing medium and her control, Katie King,
never found the least indication of deception on the part of Florence Cook.
When he was notified of the death of the medium, he expressed, in a letter
dated April 24, 1904, his deepest sympathy and declared that the belief in
an after-life owes so much of its certainty to her mediumship.
Skeptics claim that Sir
William Crookes became somewhat infatuated with Florence Cook and,
especially, with Katie King, and this tended to bias his
Here is a glimpse of what he
inadequate to depict the perfect beauty of Katie's face, as words are
powerless to describe her charm of manner. Photography may, indeed, give a
map of her countenance; but how can it reproduce the brilliant purity of
her complexion, or the ever-varying expression of her most mobile features,
now overshadowed with sadness when relating some of the bitter experiences
of her past life, now smiling with all the innocence of happy girlhood when
she has collected my children round her, and was amusing them by recounting
anecdotes of her adventures in India?"
Research into the mediumship
of Florence Cook certainly convinces me that she was genuine and that Katie
King was, surely, a materialized spirit. Yes, the above quote from Sir
William Crookes does indicate a certain degree of infatuation; but, of far
greater impact is that this quote clearly indicates that the true spirit
and personality of this young girl, known as Katie King, managed to
transcend the barriers of life and step across the veil of death in a most
profound and in a most charming way. After all, isn't that what mediumship,
of any form, should endeavor to accomplish?
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